Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sitcom and Shakespeare on Forsyth Street

“Lights, camera, action!”

That’s the order of the day this week at The Florida Theatre during the taping of a locally produced situation comedy, “In the Pits.” It’s part of a plan to make use of local actors and locations. The cast and crew have been taping scenes in the historic theater’s auditorium and in the offices upstairs recently vacated by the City’s Planning and Development Department.

Directed by Devlin Mann and co-written by Stephen Dare, the plot revolves around a theater company facing more than the usual number of challenges, including the untimely death of its lead actor and his replacement. It’s also “about the economy and technology overcoming place and distance,” said Dare.

In addition to what’s being taped in Jacksonville, other scenes produced in London will be edited into the final product.

Mann is a graduate of Jacksonville University and worked in Los Angeles on several productions, including the Brooke Shields sitcom, “Suddenly Susan.” He’s also a Shakespearean actor and has performed in London, among other international venues.

Mann said he is working with CW 17 to air the pilot episode next month. If it’s a hit, a season of episodes will be produced and possibly distributed network-wide on CW, he said.

“It’s Jacksonville’s first locally produced, fully scripted sitcom. We’re trying to get as much local flavor as possible, while making it accessible to a broader audience,” said Mann.

The television show is just one part of Mann’s plans for the Florida Theatre. His “Backlight Theatre Group” is accepting applicants for a series of acting workshops that will be conducted there. One workshop will focus on developing Shakespearean actors.

Mann said earlier this year he invited Rob Clare from the Royal Shakespeare Company to come to Jacksonville and conduct three nights of workshops.

“The response was so tremendous, we decided we could do this year-round,” said Mann.

He said his goal is to provide a range of theatrical instruction, including acting, dance, filmmaking and other visual arts using the Florida Theatre as the campus.

“We want to find more ways to use this magnificent space. It’s underutilized and we want to fill it with a variety of events to supplement the existing programming,” said Mann.

For information, e-mail

(904) 356-2466

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